Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wind follies

  • Wind isn’t an energy solution, it’s a visual placebo to make hippies feel better about themselves. 
This was such a delightful quote that I had to post both it and the original comment which points out that during the current cold snap in the UK the existing wind turbines had to be heated to prevent them from seizing: not only did the windmills not contribute any power, they drew power during the peak cold period.

The continued failing of wind power in every jurisdiction should be sufficient for any sane policy analyst to reject the imposition (sorry, progressive introduction) of feed in tariffs to subsidize such "green" energy follies elsewhere. Sadly the high price of wind and solar is still being foisted onto the public by governments caught in their thrall to an ideology that is neither progressive, green nor sustainable.

If we accept as a policy constraint that the future is indeed difficult to forecast, we should at least also accept experience and observed data as a basis for the revision of policy and as a corollary to assertive claims of dystopian certainty.

Furthermore, the science is rarely definitive and always subservient to the ideology:

  • ...climate scientists have greatly underestimated the uncertainty of proxy-based reconstructions and hence have been overconfident in their models. (Here and here)

We should also pay more attention to where and from whom, such dystopian claims originate.  For every stupid idea, there usually is a stupid, vain and privileged proponent. And, often, they are published. 

Moreover, we should also be wary of the assertive authority that peer review is used to invoke:
  • If peer review is to be thought of primarily as a quality assurance method, then sadly we have lots of evidence of its failures.
  • We have little or no evidence that peer review 'works,' but we have lots of evidence of its downside.

We get the government we elect. And governments embrace policy options they consider the public will condone.  
  • Stupid is as stupid does. Forrest Gump

  • People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. Kierkegaard

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cancun in context

Writing over at Spiked, Ben Pile supplies this excellent summary of the Cancun conference and what it reveals about the true status of concern over climate:
  • is a slow process; politics happens much faster. In the rush to get the most recent research under the noses of policymakers, those engaged in the climate debate show that climate politics exists before climate science has even got its thermometer out.
  • The trouble with evidence-based policymaking is that, when doubt about the evidence emerges, the policymaking grinds to a halt. In order to continue with the creation of environmental bureaucracies and political institutions, fresh certainty has to be supplied.
  • That’s not to say that ‘climate change isn’t happening’, nor to suggest that it won’t be a problem. However, the alarmist narrative which created the basis for international climate policy has exhausted itself. By over-stating things in the past, it created the conditions for its later embarrassment. In order to sustain the political momentum, science has had to do PR. And the effects are all too plain.
Some of the confused "victims" in all this are the many scientists who are not a part of the climatocracy but genuinely work through the scientific details of the dynamics of climate change.  They remain largely convicted about the basic science, tend to under-estimate the influence environmental alarmism has had on perception of their work and concomitantly, had placed too much faith on the authoritative nature of the IPCC as the definitive word on climate change.

As Pile states:
  • The problem is the broader expectation that science can be instructive; that ‘what to do about climate change’ can be simply read off from clear scientific evidence. The evidence isn’t clear. It is contradictory. It changes. Science is confused by the political demand for certainty, for the true story.
  • Science and policymaking are imitating the news. Rather than waiting for genuine scientific development, scientific organisations engaged in the policymaking process produce summaries of the latest speculation on demand. This speculation is intended to add urgency to the process by defeating the doubt that besets the policymaking. But it does so at the expense of a sober understanding of the climate and our relationship to it. This is acceptable under the rubric of the precautionary principle, which allows policymakers to aim to be safe rather than sorry by accepting approximations of ‘science’ in lieu of certainty. But this reveals that science – as an institution, rather than a process – is much less involved in discovery than in supplying climate politics and its bureaucracies with legitimacy.
When science adopts as a founding premise the precautionary principle it is no longer a neutral, objective search for truth. Adoption of the precautionary principle as a presumptive premise is the adoption of environmentalist ideology as the defining narrative for understanding, a predisposition for a particular political interpretation and determination of findings.  The science has become inherently politicized.

Update: so climate science becomes politicized, but why does politics need climate science as the latest symbol of environmental alarmism?  

As has been pointed out frequently over at Climate Resistance, the allure of climate as a defining narrative for politics is that it provides a moral imperative for a generation of politicians lacking a cause.

As Mick Hume writes, the ruling class are conformists without a cause, with the result that they have no real allegiance to the substance of any issue. About Nick Clegg, Hume writes:

  • one thing he is not is a traitor. To be a traitor to a cause, you first need to have one to betray. Clegg, like the other top parliamentarians of the age, is a conformist without a cause. 
  • ...this u-turn should have come as a shock only to those – many of them supposedly jaundiced journalists – who fell in wide-eyed wonder for the myths of ‘Cleggmania’ in the first place. Remember how, in the spring of the General Election campaign, the Lib Dems were supposed to stand for a new politics of honesty and principle, a fresh approach that would overthrow the discredited order at Westminster?
    His words echo those of Victor Davis Hanson about Barrack Obama. The names and places change, the meme does not.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    ideas and change

    I have been reading a lot lately over at Judith Curry's site where she has a number a excellent threads ongoing and a range of viewpoints that largely seem to want to respect Judith's attempt to move beyond partisan rhetoric on climate issues.

    I also read earlier today this piece on Victor Davis Hanson's lament for the paucity of moral imperative within the contemporary ruling class. (Also discussed here).

    The connecting construct is the central role that ideology plays in how people view their world and how ideology then conditions their response and reactions to change.

    I responded to the discussion of education versus indoctrination at Judith's with this comment:

    What many do not consider about education and ideas is the role that ideology plays.  Not wanting to play with semantics, a basic definition of ideology (see Wikipedia) would suggest that:
    • ideology is a coherent system of ideas, relying upon a few basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis, but are subjective choices that serve as the seed around which further thought grows. According to this perspective, ideologies are neither right nor wrong, but only a relativistic intellectual strategy for categorizing the world. The pluses and minuses of ideology range from the vigor and fervor of true believers to ideological infallibility. Excessive need for certitude lurks at fundamentalist levels in politics and religions.
    From my perspective, I have long maintained that ideology functions as a filter for our ideas and thinking: it filters what we absorb, how we receive information and ideas, constructs and concepts, the data we accept, that which we reject.  At the same time, ideology is a filter through which our own communication takes place.

    Thus, logically, we can consider the extent to which people are aware of their own ideology and the role it plays relative to their education and intellectual development.  I would posit that the more more we are conscious of our own ideology the more open-minded we are -- but that too is a projection of my own ideological perspective, because I value open-mindedness I associate increased consciousness and awareness as virtues and conflate them with a positive ideological trait, open-mindedness.

    Certainly, if I want to organize a radical activist group, my ideas about open-mindedness may not be so positive and I would value certitude much more highly.

    We should not presume that all educators view education the way we as individual educators do: it is not correct to presume all scientists seek the "truth" or that "objectivity" is a value in education above all others.  These are value constructs that reflect the ideology of those proposing them.

    Many intellectuals support the proposition that all knowledge is contingent.  What we think is absolute and certain is only as absolute and certain as the knowledge we have.  Every so often an Einstein pops up and changes that presumptive knowledge.  At this juncture we are straying into both philosophy and meta-physics, and I am about as far down those respective limbs as I am comfortable...

    So, what does this have to do with climate, education and indoctrination? Everything.  People may agree on the ideas: education is good, indoctrination as bad, but then in practice, in pronouncements, in communicative practice commit an act that is for them "educational" which for others from a different ideological perspective is to them "indoctrination".
    Add in the capacity for political entities to be explicitly Orwellian in their use and misuse of language and we get the situation we have today.

    Perhaps the best we can achieve is open dialogue with tolerance and an absence of arrogance, personalization and political agendas.  Sometimes we get two of the three: rarely all three!

    To which I would add here that many educators are themselves blind to their own ideological presumptions and that academia has a long history of disputes that reflect an inability for the protagonists to find a commons with sufficiency enough to resolve their presumptions, use of language and/or ideas.

    In many ways, the art of successful politics is the ability to appeal to as wide a spectrum of opinion and ideas as possible with the same set of words, constructs and concepts.  The utility of the term sustainability in politics is due to the resonance of the term with so many varied publics.

    The issue facing climate activists today is that their mantra of AGW no longer has extensive resonance and hurriedly seeking to replace terminology is an insufficient solution for many who now view as indoctrination the ideas and facts they previously mistook as education.
    • A sullen, gloomy realization that maybe, just maybe, they got it all wrong is beginning to dawn upon the less unintelligent delegates. So the exit strategy is being quietly, hastily constructed.
    What is left is the climate version of Groundhog Day.

    Monday, December 06, 2010

    science not politics

    One of the most common complaints by skeptics is that the climate models (upon which climate change predictions rest) are not very accurate. Moreover, there is a perception that the reason for this is that basic premises reflect ideology rather than physical science.

    This perspective is given additional traction by the publication of this refereed journal paper, which concludes:
    • It is claimed that GCMs provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above. Examining the local performance of the models at 55 points, we found that local projections do not correlate well with observed measurements. Furthermore, we found that the correlation at a large spatial scale, i.e. the contiguous USA, is worse than at the local scale.
    • However, we think that the most important question is not whether GCMs can produce credible estimates of future climate, but whether climate is at all predictable in deterministic terms. Several publications, a typical example being Rial et al. (2004), point out the difficulties that the climate system complexity introduces when we attempt to make predictions. “Complexity” in this context usually refers to the fact that there are many parts comprising the system and many interactions among these parts. This observation is correct, but we take it a step further. We think that it is not merely a matter of high dimensionality, and that it can be misleading to assume that the uncertainty can be reduced if we analyse its “sources” as nonlinearities, feedbacks, thresholds, etc., and attempt to establish causality relationships. Koutsoyiannis (2010) created a toy model with simple, fully-known, deterministic dynamics, and with only two degrees of freedom (i.e. internal state variables or dimensions); but it exhibits extremely uncertain behaviour at all scales, including trends, fluctuations, and other features similar to those displayed by the climate. It does so with a constant external forcing, which means that there is no causality relationship between its state and the forcing. The fact that climate has many orders of magnitude more degrees of freedom certainly perplexes the situation further, but in the end it may be irrelevant; for, in the end, we do not have a predictable system hidden behind many layers of uncertainty which could be removed to some extent, but, rather, we have a system that is uncertain at its heart.
    • Do we have something better than GCMs when it comes to establishing policies for the future? Our answer is yes: we have stochastic approaches, and what is needed is a paradigm shift. We need to recognize the fact that the uncertainty is intrinsic, and shift our attention from reducing the uncertainty towards quantifying the uncertainty (see also Koutsoyiannis et al., 2009a). Obviously, in such a paradigm shift, stochastic descriptions of hydroclimatic processes should incorporate what is known about the driving physical mechanisms of the processes. Despite a common misconception of stochastics as black-box approaches whose blind use of data disregard the system dynamics, several celebrated examples, including statistical thermophysics and the modelling of turbulence, emphasize the opposite, i.e. the fact that stochastics is an indispensable, advanced and powerful part of physics. Other simpler examples (e.g. Koutsoyiannis, 2010) indicate how known deterministic dynamics can be fully incorporated in a stochastic framework and reconciled with the unavoidable emergence of uncertainty in predictions.
    Now cutting through the standard academic boiler plate -- there is something better, it is our approach -- the take home message is that present GCM models are not the accurate projection they are claimed to be.  A stochastic approach may yield better results, but while that might work scientifically it is a certain non-starter politically.

    A stochastic relationship is, by definition, a random process with defined probabilities.  Environmental ideology does not allow for random processes: it is entirely predicated upon the certainty of human agency upon which to promulgate its dogma of restraint and regulation.  Moreover, soci0-economic data are immune to probabilistic modeling precisely because they entail humans and free choice.

    No serious economist takes the Stern report as a valid projection of the future.  But it is necessary as an input to drive the IPCC models.  Those models are not an accurate representation of past climate trends.  The error may not be large, but the global re-organization of society has been promoted by climate alarmists on the basis of temperature changes of less than this margin of error.

    Admitting this constraint has two concomitant effects: it both restores the credibility of the science on climate change and removes its entire political imperative.

    Saturday, December 04, 2010

    Meanwhile, in the real world...

    While the UK, large parts of North America and a significant proportion of Europe is dealing with the first vestiges of severe winter in the form of record breaking cold temperatures and snowfall, the climatocracy are convening in Cancun. The sharp juxtaposition of these two circumstances have not passed unnoticed and commentators have discussed everything from:
    Which brings to question, what is the problem and how is it being framed?

    In the wake of Climategate, the collapse of contrivance at Copenhagen and the widespread recognition of this fact at Cancun, what is the real question?

    The lessons of AGW require that we must address the failure of the academy and not just a cadre of bullies indulging in expertise politics.

    At Judith Curry’s site I posted this reply within her thread on how to respond the Congress and its questions on how the fiasco of AGW evolved.

    · This point cannot be over-emphasized but often is over looked. The majority of scientists may indeed be nice people but that does not mean they are objective, exist absent of personal motives or free of ideology. The predominant ideology of most environmental scientists remains both elitist and liberal/democratic, which means they largely prescribe to an ecological meme that despite its consistent refutation is rejected by the intellectual elite who simply “know better”. So when Lomborg published his book (which, in turn, originally was an attempt to vilify Simon) his results were dismissed as being “wrong” and when that was not sufficient, he was attacked in the same manner as climate “denialists”.

    · A large part of the problem is the culture of academia and the reality that the merely competent in any field of inquiry greatly outweigh the gifted and talented. Because someone is published and published a lot is not the same as saying they are insightful, merely industrious.

    · The basic problem with the IPCC is that as a bureaucratic entity and process it elevated industry and empire building within academia and sought to equate this with academic ability and insight: they are not the same. Thus in an academic version of the Peter Principle, we had many people elevated to positions of power where they engaged in an exercise of expert politics.

    · Notice that the word “science” is largely absent in all this. That is because the whole situation was driven by ideology and politics and the science became subsumed within this.

    · The sad part is that few within the academy actually stood tall and called people out on this: those that did, myself included, found ourselves all the more marginalized. There is a reason skeptical voices within academia are older, senior or near retirement: to question the golden goose of research funding when research funds are not only a proxy for productivity but an indicator of excellence is career suicide.

    · Why do I blog? I blog for my own sanity and because it is the only alternative if one is to actually focus on policy within environment and actually question the pervasiveness of the environmentalist dogma.

    · Lastly, non-scientists are vilified for examining “science” questions. But all manner of scientists express political and policy opinions freely without ever studying or examining these areas of enquiry with any rigor. It is a most crass double standard of hypocrisy that is blatant in practice and in its acceptance as the norm.

    · Chicken and pig go for breakfast. Decide on bacon and eggs. The chicken was engaged, the pig was committed.

    · Policy analysts have nothing to lose in this discussion: career climate scientists everything. Sadly, some lost their integrity very early. Some are just discovering the consequences of not speaking up. Others still cling to the same prevailing ideology they always have and seek to dismiss all this fuss as inconsequential.

    · Last month another academic (an IPCC Nobel winner as he always mentions) sought to have the senior alumni at my university rescind its invitation to me to speak as my talk would be “improper” and “invalid” plus a whole host of other pejorative terms.

    · No the sociology at work here cannot be over stated.

    Martin Durkin makes many of these same points here.

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    The collapse of contrivance

    In my presentation last week, I indicated that Climategate and Copenhagen together had combined to signal the collapse of contrivance: the use of climate change as the central narrative of environmentalist dogma and the re-distribution of wealth.

    Today, on the opening of the largely irrelevant meetings in Cancun, the mainstream media (left and right) has officially declared that the collapse of contrivance is a reality:
    here and here.

    This collapse leaves the science of climate in somewhat of a quandary. Facing the certain collapse of their source funding, the community is finally awakening to the need to communicate more effectively with the public at large that elects the governments that supply the money that supports their research meanderings.

    Judith Curry recently attempted to get her visitors to engage in an exercise intended to
    raise the level of the game. Some posters got it, some, sadly, remained anchored in the arrogance of bafflement that the great unwashed does not grant anyone with a PhD in climate an automatic genuflection.

    So, what is it skeptics (and the majority of the public now) don't get? Well here is a list:

    • while most everyone recognizes that the greenhouse effect exists and is necessary, they do not get how a trace gas, CO2 at 0.03% of the atmosphere, can function as the global thermostat, while water vapor at 97% of the atmosphere is just some passive feedback mechanism

    • why water vapor acts as a negative feedback on the effects of global warming, the models rely upon water vapor being a positive feedback mechanism for AGW alarmism
    • how temperatures could have exceeded today's levels as recently as 1000 yrs. ago and yet levels of CO2 were at their "historically" safe level 
    • what has fundamentally changed in the earth's atmosphere that the same trace gas that was unrelated to higher temperatures 1000 years ago, is today the principal driver of temperature change

    • we have difficulty reconciling the implied effects of CO2 with wholesale revisions and contraction of the global economy when human contributions of CO2 are but a minor component of the total

    • we don't get why science is being subordinated to political activism
    The lay person may struggle with the intricacies of climate science, but they recognize political rhetoric and polemics from experience. They have no problem comprehending statist policies for centralized command and control. 

    Moreover, unlike activists, scientists and politicians, they have no problem recognizing that increased centralized planning is at complete odds with the dynamics of globalization (decentralization, increased democratization of information, technology and finance).

    Thus, to use the environment, and climate in particular, as the imperative for wholesale economic change requires something more than "a gut feeling". It requires transparency. It requires trust. It requires that reasonable questions of concern are answered comprehensively, not dismissively. It means acknowledging uncertainty.

    The politics have damaged the science of climate decisively. And until the climate science community comes to grips with this fact, they will consigned to a central role within the collapsed contrivance. Time to Mann up, stop hiding behind the decline and get real about climate.

    A reply by Gavin Schmidt in the
    Curry thread indicates a start is being made, where he references this latest paper. The abstract states:
    • The relative contributions of atmospheric long-wave absorbers to the present-day global greenhouse effect are among the most misquoted statistics in public discussions of climate change.

    • With a straightforward scheme for allocating overlaps, we find that water vapour is the dominant contributor (~50% of the effect), followed by clouds (~25%) and then CO2 with ~20%. All other absorbers play only minor roles.
    Unlike pervasive AGW dogma, this paper recognizes that water vapor and clouds are major variables and places the role of CO2 in context. It also presents the mainstream case in a manner that is accessible to those who are not believers in that dogma -- kinda like science. Who would have thought.

    A second h/t to Curry for
    this thread and her sincere attempts to move the debate forward.

    Those that troll the internet however, appear to be having a hard time moving beyond the insults, the dismissals and the arrogant assertions that frustrate those who would actually discuss issues.

    As Delingpole
    notes in frustration:
    • ...the scientific detail is peripheral. And the reason it’s peripheral is because a corrupt, mendacious political, scientific, corporate and media establishment has rigged it that way
    • Meanwhile, the main Green war effort rumbles on regardless. Ecofascism can lose the AGW battle because – as befits the Leninist method underpinning its philosophy – AGW was never more than a convenient means to an end. Controlling the world, is what this war is ultimately about – not saving it for Mother Gaia.

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Why would the IPCC lie to us?

    After a class presentation and in the context of an extended discussion of why one would or would not subscribe to a belief in AGW, one of my students finally posed the central question that vexes many: "why would the IPCC lie to us?"

    It is a question that many use rhetorically as if it is all that is required to re-assert the ascendancy of their axiomatic dogma:
    • you can't possibility be questioning the authority of the IPCC?
    • can you?
    • the science?
    • the scientists?

    The IPCC was not established to examine climate, nor climate change.  It was established to provide a comprehensive and objective assessment of scientific, technical and socio-economic information that could lead to a better understanding of human-induced climate change.

    We get the answers to the questions we ask.  The IPCC has always been a process structured and guided by the politics of environmentalism and not any science of discovery. 

    Consequently, when the exaggerations, biases and mis-conducts subsumed within the IPCC process are revealed, it should not be surprising that its leading beneficiaries resort to rhetorical questions, ad hominem attacks and bluster. 

    Sadly, these tactics persist and they persist at the highest levels within academia as this wonderful rebuttal by James Delingpole illustrates.


    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Common sense is neither skepticism, nor denial

    • Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, ‘skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible as does the evidence from climategate and other instances of overt cheating.
    • In the meantime, while I avoid making forecasts for tenths of a degree change in globally averaged temperature anomaly, I am quite willing to state that unprecedented climate catastrophes are not on the horizon though in several thousand years we may return to an ice age.
    This is the conclusion to Richard Lindzen's Congressional Testimony this week.  Earlier he states:

    • The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak –and commonly acknowledged as such.
    • Our present approach of dealing with climate as completely specified by a single number, globally averaged surface temperature anomaly, that is forced by another single number, atmospheric CO2levels, for example, clearly limits real understanding; so does the replacement of theory by model simulation.
    • We see that all the models are characterized by positive feedback factors (associated with amplifying the effect of changes in CO2), while the satellite data implies that the feedback should be negative. 
    One would think such testimony, based on hard science would suffice: politically we would re-frame the discussion of climate towards a proper goal of understanding and comprehending the earth's basic systems, free of ideologically driven political agendas.

    O.K. so that's just way too naive. But at least one would hope the basic narrative would begin to be adjusted to better reflect scientific reality.

    Even that it seems may be beyond the reach of too many committed environmental activists.  

    As James Delingpole commented on the mainstream media's (lack of) response to the Climategate revelations:
    • Like the Bourbons, the watermelons of the global green movement have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from Climategate. For them, AGW has never been about science or objective truth. It has always been just a pretext. 
    Many academics are scrambling to re-frame climate into a "new" broader meta-narrative of environmental politics in the hopes that it will somehow confirm and continue to justify their ongoing research unhindered by consideration of such pesky aspects as:
    • axiomatic presumptions
    • verifiable data
    • empirical measurement
    • open dialogue
    • data disclosure 
    • appropriate methodology
    • good scientific practice
    Sadly, what many of these academic scientists do not realize nor accept is that the opposition they have faced has never been to the science: it has always been to the excessive, unwarranted and unaccountable use of their science within an assertive and oppressive political meme.

    Good climate science is not at issue.  The politicization of science, the assertion of ideology as scientific pretext and biased academic practices are at issue.  Sadly, they remain so.

    From my perspective, the responsibility for addressing this issue rests with academics, not with the politicians, bloggers or the mainstream media.  It is only when the academy determines that poor conduct and expertise politics debase the science and ceases to condone such manipulation, that it will cease.  

    This does not imply censorship: rather it requires academics to do what they supposedly already are doing, but do it properly.  For example:
    • a review of a paper should not be cursory glance at the citations to see if they are "approved" but should be an audit of methodology, data and findings 
    • more dialogue of ideas should occur in real time using blogs, and
    • fraudulent behaviour and intimidation should not be sanctioned and excused by passive acceptance, academic doublespeak and an obsessive obsequiousness towards research funding.
    Sadly, reading various comments this week, suggests that both the mainstream media and the majority of academics appear to be taking completely the opposite tack, seeking to re-rehabilitate those exposed by Climategate in a full-court press to re-assert the mantra of AGW dogma. 

    There is no attainment of learning for the lazy. Kauthilya.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Climategate, Copenhagen and the Collapse of Contrivance

    Two years ago I was invited to speak to the Senior Alumni at my host institution, the University of Western Ontario.  I spoke on the issue of Global Warming and Other Eco Myths and my talk was enthusiastically received by the audience.  It was also extensively, and accurately, covered by the campus newspaper, which made my talk its lead story for its next edition.

    Well this is where things got interesting.  Another person in my department, heavily involved in the IPCC process, by the name of Gordon McBean, took it upon himself to circulate a petition condemning both my right to speak and castigating the Western News for (a) covering my talk at all, and (b) not editing their coverage with a “corrective” message reciting approved AGW dogma.

    I responded to this attempt to suppress my academic freedom with a rebuttal piece which I simultaneously published here on ecomyths.

    Fast forward to Fall 2009, and the leaked Climategate emails confirm that such intimidation tactics, expertise politics and bullying were characteristic of a cadre of leading figures within the IPCC sphere.  In my own small way, I felt somewhat vindicated and recognized that McBean was my own version of a warmist zealot unable to suppress their zeal for climate conformity with any comprehension of academic good conduct.

    So, why this post, why revisit old wounds?  Well ahead of my planned talk November 16 to those same Senior Alumni, McBean has not even waited for me to talk, not even bothered to see for himself the text of my presentation but has been “proactive” and took it upon himself to contact the organizers and suggest that my invitation to speak is improper and should be withdrawn.

    So now I am elevated into that category of speaker on topics climatic to have their invitation withdrawn.  Except that I am not.  My invite comes from the Senior Alumni of the University of Western Ontario who do not cower before bullies, are not intimidated by blowhard windbags and do not fear people who indulge in cowardly politics.

    And now for the rest of the story, (as Paul Harvey used to intone so memorably) ...what McBean did not know was that when I was invited to speak, I initially declined knowing the Senior Alumni had garnered a degree of controversy from my last talk, at which time I was informed that yes indeed the organizers were fully aware of this and that was an additional reason why their membership most expressly wanted to invite me back: they liked my talk, they liked the views I expressed, wanted to hear more and if that upset the likes of McBean, well that would be just an extra bonus along the way!

    I hope you too enjoy the presentation, which is now posted along side my other PowerPoint, here at ecomyths where the truth is our friend and not a political toy for intellectual toddlers.

    It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong. Voltaire

    Apologies to anyone trying to download the presentation, I made some changes to correct some typos and did not copy the correct file from mediafire: all is now fixed.

    Thursday, November 04, 2010

    you bring an academic to a tea party but you can't make him drink

    Scientific American had a recent poll on the state of climate science.  The conclusions?

    • With a total of 5190 respondents, a consensus of 81.3% think the IPCC is "a corrupt organization, prone to group-think, with a political agenda" and 75% think climate change is caused by solar variation or natural processes vs. 21% who think it is due to greenhouse gases from human activity.
    The shift in public attitudes is not confined to the rampant right, tea drinkers or the lunatic fringe.  Indeed, attempts by scientists to impugn opposition to AGW by inferring a lack of understanding, political motive or simple denial of science, should now be passe.

    Sadly they aren't.  For every Roger Piekle Jr, who comprehends the nuances of politics as they apply to science and Judith Curry, who seeks to mirror her scientific integrity with personal integrity, there remain far too many academics who, as yet, have not 
    • publicly differentiated their personal ideology from their scientific pronouncements
    • recognized that their expertise in some aspect of climate science does not extend to an expertise in science policy
    • distinguished their personal politics from their understanding of the policy process, especially as it applies to climate, energy and sustainability
    • expressed clearly and unequivocally their disdain for those scientists who have manipulated and politicized the IPCC process, and
    • expressed their professional, unbiased assessment of alarmist pronouncements utilized by academics and universities to sell the public an ideologically driven message on sustainability, impending crises and environmental policies.
    Sadly, my own university still reflects the fact that far too many academics remain myopically addicted to the kool-aid of environmental alarmism and stubbornly allergic to reformist qualities of any alternatives.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Why Watts Up With That? is where its at

    More evidence today on why many consider Anthony Watts' blog Watts Up With That? to be the best blog.

    First is his publication and discussion of the resignation from the American Physical Society by long time and prominent member, Hal Lewis.  Reason for his decision? The APS dogmatic stance on AGW and their lack of commitment to the principles of scientific integrity:

    • In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.
    As Watts points out, the resignation and its rationale are significant for all scientists and those interested in the implementation of effective policy and should be read in their entirety.

    The second example is this wonderful graphic: 

    and the accompanying post on the latest peer-reviewed publication which concludes:
    • It is at present impossible to accurately determine climate sensitivity (defined as the equilibrium warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations) from past records, partly because carbon dioxide and short-lived species have increased together over the industrial era. Warming over the past 100 years is consistent with high climate sensitivity to atmospheric carbon dioxide combined with a large cooling effect from short-lived aerosol pollutants, but it could equally be attributed to a low climate sensitivity coupled with a small effect from aerosols. These two possibilities lead to very different projections for future climate change.
    Taken in conjunction, the two posts confirm both the position of WUWT as one of the best sources of emerging information and perspective on the web, and the rapidly changing status of climate alarmism one year after ClimateGate and the collapse of the Copenhagen conference.

    No longer is climate alarmism the default, nor the defining paradigm of accepted science.  It is still a prominent perspective but it is no longer an un-questioned, axiomatic construct.  

    Increasingly critics of AGW are described as skeptics, and no longer demonized as "deniers".  The tenor has changed.  The politics has morphed into a wider promotion of a more nebulous and still emerging concern for "energy" -- still embracing the familiar narratives of limits; anti-consumption; anti-capitalism; soft green, warm and fuzzy ecology, and; centralized, elite planning -- but a notable absence of global warming or climate change embedded within its central imperative.  

    AGW has become global warming, has become climate change, has become climate disruption, has become the albatross of science.

    Friday, October 01, 2010

    how not to win friends and influence people...

    Well the bar for tasteless, stupid and offensive eco-hype has been set at a new low with the heavily promoted but disastrous release of the 10:10 No Pressure film, excellently dissected by James Delingpole.

    Characteristic of the all-time box office failures, No Pressure may be the Ishtar, Gigli or Heaven's Gate of the environmental movement.  Huge hype, major talent, big budget and no one with enough common sense or courage to say "no", this is not satirical, not funny, not good communications strategy. 

    Why?  Sadly it appears those involved in the production felt justified that their message was so significant that their ends justified the means.

    This attitude characterizes the  Teflon Doomsayers, the professional fear mongers who  direct the eco-myth disinformation program: get them young, keep them dumb and instill them with fear!

    As Budiansky summarizes:
    • ...while the entire presumable goal, purpose, and raison d'ĂȘtre of applied environmental science is to solve environmental problems, any environmental scientist who dares to suggest that problems are being solved is asking for trouble... we have arrived at a state where even the most wildly irrational pessimism is treated with reverence, while the most cautiously sober optimism is ridiculed.
    • What I find almost inexplicable in all of this, however, is how the scientific doomsayers get away over and over again with making predictions that are fabulously, ridiculously — and demonstrably — incorrect, without the slightest repercussions upon their credibility or careers. Predictions of impending doom are published based on absurd methodologies and threadbare evidence of a kind that in the normal course of scientific affairs would be sufficient to ruin careers ten times over, and the authors walk away from them without a scratch.
    Just another example of how the unbelievable can become the accepted.

    Or perhaps this time, this is a Myth Too Far and just as with climategate, the greater mass of public will say enough already.


    This insightful conclusion:
    • Rather than an isolated aberration, then, the 10:10 video can be seen as the end result of years of ad hominem attacks meant to marginalize skeptics and make it unnecessary to actually address their concerns about the science.  Perhaps this video will mark a turning point where we can finally start talking about the science rather than attacking motivations.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Even social democracy is changing

    Change is inevitable, even in politics it seems.  As the US braces for a big Tea Party in November, other democracies have seen traditional centrist, parties of ordained power for life, suffer significant losses.  This year, it has happened in Britain and in Australia. Now even the social democratic haven of Sweden has seen a massive change in its prevailing political landscape.

    As Nathalie Rothschild discusses:
    • ...the problem is that the Social Democrats, along with their opposition in the centre-right alliance, have lost any real connection with the electorate and increasingly treat politics as a technocratic, managerial job.
    • ...all of the major mainstream parties demonstrated their belief that debate about big ideas should be erased from the political process.
    When Fidel Castro finally admits what has been evident to everyone, especially Cubans, for several decades, that the socialist economic model of Cuba is not a sustainable economic system, people everywhere look at their politics and ask, when are they going to change?  Realization is beginning to set in for the majority, that big spending only produces bigger government.  Moreover, not only does government spend inefficiently, it does so ineffectively.

    One result is voter anger and the rise of Tea Party protest style movements.  As Codevilla's seminal article discusses, there is widespread push back to the "ruling class"  in every democracy, fueled by a growing resentment to perceived entitlement, intellectual snobbery, imposed green moralism and the imposition of patently unsustainable "sustainable" programs, which reflect the poverty of political thought and moral imperative within those same detached, political elites.

    Another reaction is the broader abandonment of politics itself -- as voters look at their choices, they see a plethora of political taupe -- bland, easy to look at, passive, innocuous, not offend anyone, meaningless,background.  No foreground leadership. No bold statement of intent, of policy, of originality.  Just oceans of taupe.

    And the political establishment's response when the intellectual poverty of their politics is revealed?  Add a bit of lipstick and trot the same stuff back out there again.

    As discussed here on many occasions, sustainability is not precluded by, nor a function of, science.  Sustainability is entirely a question of political implementation.  Slowly, inexorably, the change is going to come. 

    Sing it Otis.


    Friday, September 17, 2010

    changing perspective

    Facts don't change your perspective, your perspective changes your facts.  Seems so axiomatic to me, that I use it to summarize the defining mantra for this blog.

    Not surprisingly, when I use this statement in class with my students, I discover that it is both a mantra and not axiomatic.   The irony being that the blog exists to both challenge prevailing mantras in environmentalism and to examine all things axiomatic.

    So let's examine the construct of data and changing perspective.

    Bjorn Lomborg provides an excellent starting point and example.  Recently, the media was quick to point out that Lomborg had undergone a road to Damascus conversion and one of the world's leading deniers was suddenly a believer in AGW.

    Notwithstanding the fact that Lomborg has never denied climate change, nor human agency (not a denier then) but merely had the temerity to point out that climate change is
    • not a pressing issue,
    • not our most important issue
    • nor anything we can do anything about (an economic pragmatist maybe?)
    the media and warmist, alarmist activists of all stripes gleefully sent emails quoting his conversion as smug proof that an Icon of contrariness had recanted.  (Not enough to be admitted into their inner sanctum of smug self-righteousness of course, but enough to vindicate their vilification of him since his landmark refutation of the Litany).

    Well. I  still haven't read his new book for myself but it appears Lomborg has published an op-ed to clarify the remarks in the Guardian.  Apparently, it appears comments by Lomborg that climate change is real and human agency is a factor, were, how shall we say, embellished?

    All that has changed in Lomborg's view is that we now have the possibility and the capability of addressing climate change not through taxation nor carbon trading by government's (a delusional prospect fraught with fraud, self-interest and unsustainable suppositions) but, rather, by technological innovation and advancement in new energy -- not just alternate fuels but new means of energy generation.

    This is a lot closer to my understanding of his views -- and if he is echoing Schellenberger and Nordhaus, he is reflecting a strong emerging, adaptive management approach to climate policy also advocated by Pielke Jr. which does much to shift the policy debate to energy policy and seeks to leave the ideological debate over climate policy behind.  Again, all of these are policy people discussing how the climate science has been politicized within public policy.

    The distinction between science research and public policy has been a subject of high contention within environmentalism for some time: the debate over climate change has served to both polarize and exacerbate viewpoints.  Post Copenhagen and post-Climategate, there is now considerable movement to move beyond the ideological posturing -- sadly not all parties are embracing this shift in dialogue as being constructive.

    Which brings us to the central issue: why don't facts change people's perspective, whereas a change in perspective can cause a change in the "facts" as we know them? 

    The answer is in our ideology, which in turn is a function of how we think and why.  Luckily, there are those who seek to improve our understanding of how and why we think like we do and why we do or do not act rationally in response to facts that accord or contradict our perspective. 

    Resonance and dissonance.  Leadership is resonating with people.  Good leaders empower people to make changes by visioning a perspective that resonates with their ideas, fits the facts as people understand them and, offers them hope for improvement.  

    The problem with environmentalism is it does none of these things.  Instead it evokes:
    • an elitist mantra
    • enforced by appeals to authority
    • requiring conformity with dictated changes 
    • that fit the facts of those enforcing the change and
    • not the reality of those suffering the imposition of change.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Junk Science: the basis for all Ecomyths

    At the heart of all ecomyths is a mis-use of science.  Sometimes it is a mis-representation of data, sometimes it is a lack of proper context, sometimes it is an inappropriate study protocol, poor study design, bias in variables or method, or just suspect interpretation.  Sometimes it is the subservience of science to ideological presumption, sometimes it goes beyond manipulation and exaggeration and constitutes lies.  All are possible within Junk Science.

    Terence Corcoran introduces the 12th Annual Junk Science Week in the Financial Post with this explanation of Junk Science:

    • Our standard definition is that junk science occurs when scientific facts are distorted, risk is exaggerated and the science adapted and warped by politics and ideology to serve another agenda.
    • That definition needs to be refined. It was shaped by the idea that junk science is strictly the bailiwick of scaremongers.
    • But science can also be warped to promote the opposite of fear. Unscientific hope mongering may be just as prevalent as scare mongering. In some ways, the role of the media in hope mongering is more important than in scare mongering. In the hands of journalists bent on doing what they think is socially beneficial work making people aware of new developments, even good science can be twisted, distorted and exaggerated for political purposes.
    Examples of contemporary Junk Science profiled in this year's series include:
    • the absence of scientific evidence to validate the scaremongering around the amount of salt in people' diet,
    • the assertion that smog is claiming thousands of deaths despite improvements in air quality and, of course,
    • the harder to kill than a vampire continuance of climate junk despite virulent discreditation and refutation of every kind.
    Not only do these profiles highlight how and why people should discount these ecomyths, they highlight the more insidious nature of ecomyths themselves.  If Junk Science is so easily disproven, why then do ecomyths continue to be embraced by governments, agencies and authorities even though the evidence of the Junk Science upon which they are based is clearly and categorically outlined?

    The answer is both simple and depressing: ecomyths are a contrivance.  The issue is not people's health in the case of salt, nor people's health with smog, nor the sustainability of the environment with climate change.  These are the excuse, the contrivance upon which public compliance to policies and p[programs is required.  The focus is those policies and programs, and the control which they seek to enforce over people and their lifestyles.  Ecomyths are merely a contrivance by which power can be exerted over people, their lives and their lifestyles.  Junk Science is the authoritative assertion of "The Truth" by those whose ideology is predicated on the desire to impose control over others.

    Beyond Petroleum indeed.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2010

    sustainability is change

    The worst thing to happen to the concept of sustainable development was its devolution into sustainability.  The semantics are important because they belie two key points: 
    • the denial of change as the central construct defining sustained growth and future prosperity,and
    • the transference of a human management construct into a purely scientific measure of precautionary possibility.
    The recent events in Haiti and Chile show the consequences of this shift in thinking.  

    Both Haiti and Chile experienced large earthquakes: in Haiti the effects were severe, in Chile they were not.  In the past two decades, Haiti has been subjected to extensive "sustainability" thinking from NGOs and government intervention in the economy: it has neither experienced development nor is it any more sustainable than when those efforts started.  In contrast, Chile has sustained its development, experienced real economic growth and was able to sustain its population through a natural disaster.

    Sustainability is a term derived from the original concept of sustainable development.  Sustainable development was predicated on the recognition that environment, economy and society had to be integrated constructs within the management of development for it to be sustainable.

    Sustainability is a management construct. The central question it addresses is:
    • how do we manage growth and future change so that it is sustainable?

    Science might provide some measures, some indicators as to levels of sustainability but absent of the integration of environmental measurements with economic indicators and social variables, those  measurements lack interpretive meaning and become co-opted dogma within the ideology of its proponents: hence the emergence of politicized science (and the associated pre-dominance of contrived environmental imperatives for morally constructed political action).

    Sustainability is not some game.  It does not have a scientifically derived end line measurement, a set of goal posts society should be shooting for.  

    Sustainability is the process of capacity building that gives communities the capability to adapt to change, sustain their development and provide hope to future generations.

    As Fullan states:

    • Sustainability is the capacity of a system to engage in the complexities of continuous improvement consistent with deep values of human purpose. 
    Capacity.  Providing individuals with the ability and skills they need, empowering them, giving them the confidence, esteem and social conditions under which they can self-actualize.

    Engage.  Becoming active agents in the determination of their own futures.  Being empowered not pawns of governments, NGOs and elites exerting power over them "in their best interest".

    Continuous improvement.  Leaving the world a better place, a changed place, but a more healthy, prosperous place by embracing technological advancement and improving the human condition.  Embracing change as constructive, positive and liberating.

    Deep values of human purpose. Sustainability is a management construct for political decision making based on values.  Those values should reflect the community's determination of moral standards, cultural differences and preferences.  It is contextualized by community and should not be dictated by dogma and elite ideology.

    Sustainability is change.  Not the denial of change, the suppression of change, nor the control of change.

    To implement sustainability effectively we must address this distinction directly in the consideration of power, precaution and the perpetuation of ecomyths..

    Thursday, February 04, 2010

    Indoctrination is not higher education

    I recently responded to a commentary in the National Post that was lamenting the openness of debate in academia around climate change. In the same discussion thread another academic using the moniker "scate" posted a series of comments that illustrated the wide gulf that exists between my own perspective on academia and the role of higher education, and the attitude of many within the halls of academia itself.

    Scate's comments were equal part arrogance and self-serving conceit. They reflect a belief that many subjects, especially any involving science, are "tough" and "difficult for the non-expert to grasp". The corollary is that even undergraduates are incapable of understanding the nuances and subtleties of these tough subjects and thus must be "instructed" and "trained" on how to think,lest they mis-understand things. It is only after they have been "taught" how to think correctly, that they are allowed to consider material for themselves, safe in the knowledge that they too will concur with the prevailing paradigm on all matters. Then, the bright few who have shown the ability to conform well to this model are allowed passage into graduate programs where they can receive advanced "training" within the accepted parameters.

    Advanced recognition and awe is reserved for those members of the academy who show a capacity for explaining "tough" subject matter in a way that is obtuse and re-inforces the internal vocabulary of the elite within any discipline. Simplicity and clarity of expression are not encouraged, especially when jargon, disciplinary dependent definitions, abbreviations and expressions may be employed to further confer an aura of authority and complexity on any aspect of enquiry.

    It is within this conceited, arrogant and mis-guided perspective of "higher education" that the whole IPCC, Climategate, Himalaya-gate and ecomyth fraud resides, festered and continues to be fostered.
    It is not surprising that the revelations of abuse and malfeasance were initially documented by bloggers and from those outside the world of academia. Those with the temerity to question the prevailing system from within are quickly and deeply ostracized by the academy. If an academic of the standing and accomplishment of Freeman Dyson can have his intellect suddenly besmirched solely because he allied his free thought with the "wrong" perspective, then it can happen to any academic (most of whom have nothing close to the list of academic accomplishments, awards and publications of the esteemed Dyson).

    The whole point here is not whether AGW is "right" or "wrong". The question is how we as a supposedly advanced civilization utilize our best and brightest to examine such complex topics and even more profoundly, how we as an advanced civilization determine who and what constitutes our best and brightest minds.

    I would contend that the ability to conform, to parrot correctly the prevailing mantra of any controlling elite, is not the desired nor defining characteristic of the best and brightest intellect. Higher education should be about the fostering and facilitation of lateral thinking, new innovations and intellectual freedom. Sadly, it has become a bastion of political correctness, conformity and intellectual compliance.

    Climategate is not surprising, nor is it the exception. Something is indeed rotten in Denmark and it is not solely the science of climate change: it is the prevailing attitude of those who constitute the scientific body and are presently training their adherents.

    Still think I am exaggerating? At the next ecomyth demonstration, ask any of the young, committed idealists on the front-lines of the protest what they are protesting and why. Whatever their answer, ask them "and why do you think that?". Their inability to provide a cogent, principled answer with an understanding of underlying constructs and concepts is a powerful indictment of their "training" and the inability of indoctrination to foster free-thinking individuals.

    Indoctrination is not designed to produce free-thought. It produces a conformity of thought. Is today's academic training evident in the indoctrinated mantra and dogma of its converts or the insightful questioning of young enquiring minds?

    Read any blog discussion thread and you will find academics like "scate" not just defending a system of academic indoctrination but blithely promoting it as higher education. You will also find many zealots who have graduated from this school and carry its message forward with fervour. 

    Nothing scares a conformist society as much as a free mind that is actively engaged in the pursuit of its own learning.  What we do not understand, we fear.  What we fear, we seek to destroy.